On 15 September, dozens of striking Southampton library workers, Unison members, lobbied the Tory council as part of their fourth day of strike action. This is a long running dispute over the attempt to close and downgrade Southampton libraries, replacing qualified librarians with volunteers.
Presenting a petition of 4,500 signatories, library worker Bob Cole made a deputation to the council outlining the views of workers, children and the community who use these services. It would take over fifty volunteers to replace the library posts that were going.
Like the mad hatter from Alice in Wonderland, Tory councillor John Hannides attacked the union for spreading misinformation, claiming the council was not closing libraries or replacing librarians with volunteers, despite the fact that Millbrook librarians are being moved, with no plans to keep the library open, and Thornhill librarians are being moved and replaced with volunteers!
Strikers were outraged at Hannides’ outburst and are determined to stop these cuts. The verbal support of Labour councillors was an obvious boost to the strikers but cannot be relied on, given their plans to make cuts of their own if elected to run the council.
The Socialist Party gives full support to the demands of the library workers and is calling for wider action to be taken to stop other cuts to services on the council, to link up with other local campaigns against cuts as a means of maximising the pressure on local councillors to reverse them.
With elections in May looming, anti-cuts candidates should prepare now to challenge the cuts budget of all three parties and put councillors in the chamber who are prepared to back a real fight to save jobs and services.